New Wethersfield head coach Tony Leone has the Eagles flying high following four straight wins
Wethersfield girls’ soccer defeated Rocky Hill 7-1 last Tuesday night at McVicar Field in Rocky Hill.
It marked the second straight victory for the Eagles, who are gelling together after dropped their first two games under new head coach Tony Leone.
“The attitude from day one has been tremendous, everyone has been positive,” said Leone, who previously coached at WHS over a decade ago, “Style of play, program mentality, those are some of the culture things that I’ve tried to make a difference from day one, and they’ve brought in.”
After starting the season with narrow losses to Tolland and Berlin, the Eagles are hitting their stride following a shutout win over New Britain (7-0) and the road victory at Rocky Hill.
“They’ve been super competitive with each other but also supportive of one another and I think slowly but surely it will start to pay off. Tonight, I think was a perfect example of it starting to come together,” added Leone, who won a state title as the head coach in Cromwell and had a stint in Newington.
Madison Righi scored two first-half goals, a perfectly place kick to the bottom left corner at the 13-minute mark and a straight away blast less than a dozen minutes later, providing the Eagles a two-score advantage heading into the break.
Freshman Vanessa Venditti started in goal for Wethersfield, blanking the Terriers during her time in net.
Junior Ava Bielenda took over for Venditti in the second half, making a handful of stops, including denying a breakaway shot attempt from Rocky Hill’s Gillian Fernstrom.
Venditti and Bielenda are joined by sophomore Riley Ford in the goalie rotation.
“They’re all right there and it stinks for them because there is only one goal, but all three of them bring a great quality to the position,” stated Leone, “I’ve tried to tell them that one of you has to step up and make it yours. They haven’t quite done that yet, so we’ll keep rotating between the three until someone steps up. It’s a challenge to them and by the end of the year hopefully we’ll have one that has stood out the most.”
Leone’s offense broke it open in the second half on goals from captains Grace Conneely and Sierra Judson.
Conneely and Mya Pellegrino are senior captains, while Judson and Gabriela Villagra are junior captains.
“We are very blessed, they are tremendous leaders,” Leone said of his field generals, “Every one of them brings something to the table, be it on the field or off the field. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and they are right up there with four of the best captains that I’ve ever had. This group is very lucky to have them.”
Gracie Leahy added a short-range goal midway through the second half and then twin sister Annie and Emma Klementon got into the action, teaming up for the play of the night when Emma led Annie with a perfect pass for the Eagles sixth goal on the night.
Emma would later score a goal of her own, polishing off the victory.
The loss was the third in four games for the Terriers, who are in a rebuild mode after losing seven seniors from last fall.
“Hopefully we will rebound from this loss and move forward. We are young and our skill level isn’t where it needs to be right now,” stated Rocky Hill head coach Annmarie Catania, “But this team has heart and a good work ethic. I believe they will work hard to get where we need to be. They are all great kids, respectful, hard-working, and all are in many clubs in school and are on the national honor society as well.”
Inexperience in goal has been an issue through the first four games.
Senior Aleksa Peterson, who hasn’t played soccer since she was a freshman, started in goal against Wethersfield and junior Lily Aube finished the night.
Both made impressive saves but were unable to thwart the road team’s relentless offensive attack.
“My goalies are young. Neither one has been a varsity goalkeeper before, so it’s brand new for them,” said Catania.
Corrin Stablie scored the Terriers only goal late in regulation.
Wethersfield’s defense made it difficult for Rocky Hill’s all-state senior Bella Montalvo, who is the team’s leading scorer.
“Bella is just the hardest working player that we’ve had in a long time and she’s a great teammate. Her skill is unbelievable,” Catania said of Montalvo, who had a four-goal performance in a win over Middletown on Sept. 17, “it’s just hard getting the ball fed to her. She does everything that she can.”
Injuries and sickness have also hampered Catania’s club in the early going.
A knee injury to senior captain Sara Zarrilli will force her to miss the season, leaving the team with a leadership and talent void on the field.
Nicole Zarrilli (Sara’s sister), Talia Carlone, and Montalvo are the other three captains.
Catania added that the team needs to work on their passing to stay competitive but holds out hope that they can turn the corner.
“It’s little mistake, but passionately they’re there. They’re hardworking girls and if we can get our skill level to where it needs to be then I think we’ll be ok. It’s getting our skill up to the competition that we’re playing.”
Rocky Hill finished the week on as high note, blanking Hartford Public 8-0 last Friday to move to 2-3 on the season. Next up is a home game this Friday, Oct 4, against Glastonbury at 3:45 p.m.
A day after defeating the Terrier, Wethersfield won 6-2 victory at Windsor. The Klementon sisters continued to work in tandem, each scoring and assisting on each other’s goals.
Leone’s team finished the week with a fourth straight victory, shutting out Bloomfield 9-0. They next hosts Southington this Friday, Oct 4, at 6:30 p.m.
It’ll be the next step in the process for an Eagles team that has shaken off a rough start and are now thriving under their new leader.
“We have to work on finishing. We’ve played Tolland, the defending state champs, and we hit the post 6 times. We played Berlin and in the first half they cleared three or four off the line and get a PK at the end and we lose 2-1,” recalled Leone, “I want them to start rewarding themselves for the play but we have to score to win those games. Goals are contagious, but misses can be contagious as well.”
Following a home loss to Wethersfield, Rocky Hill girls soccer closed last week with an 8-0 win over Hartford Public
Anthony Caracoglia- Cromwell (Soccer): Caracoglia registered a hat trick, scoring all three Cromwell goals in the Panthers 3-1 victory over St. Paul last Saturday. The senior has helped the team get off to a 3-3-2 start this fall.
Chris Danas- Middletown (Football): Danas threw for 231 yards and four touchdowns in Middletown’s 39-0 win over RHAM last Saturday. Danas, a first-year starter, has played well behind center, throwing for seven touchdowns compared to only one interception through the first three games.
McKenna Deluca- Newington (Field Hockey): McKenna scored the game’s only goal in a 1-0 win over Somers last Friday. The senior, best known for her work on the softball fields, helped the Indians secure their first victory after dropping their first five games this season.
Olivia Thompson- Wethersfield (Swimming): Thompson has had a phenomenal beginning of the season. Through three meets she already has achieved Class L state qualifying times in all four freestyle events, ranging from the sprint to the distance races, and in the meet vs. Glastonbury she won the 50 freestyle by over three quarters of a second. Thompson’s coach, Lee Schwartzman, said the junior’s success is in direct relation to her effort level at practice, which is recognized often by her teammates, and that she attacks every set with a determination to reach the extremely high end of season goals she has for herself.
Erica Paradis- Newington (Volleyball): Paradis totaled 34 assists in straight sets wins over New Britain and Windsor early last week, and then had a season-high 28 assists in a loss to E.O. Smith last Friday. The senior setter is one of the leaders on an Indians team that has won six of their first eight matches this fall.
#14 Connor Pace leads the Eagles out onto Cottone Field prior to the team's 21-14 victory over Platt last Friday night. Photo credit- Jo-Ann Campbell
Wethersfield football’s home opener last Friday night was an instant classic.
The Eagles outlasted Platt 21-14 in the team’s first game at Cottone Field since longtime head coach John Campanello retired after 14 successful years on the sidelines.
Enter Matt McKinnon, who filled the vacancy after serving as Campanello’s defensive coordinator for the last six seasons.
“The accountability, the offseason program, all the morals and values. Coach Camp had all of those things. He did a great job at showing me how to handle things,” said the first-year head coach, “I learned a lot from him. The first one is student-athlete. Everything is about being a student first and once you’ve had success in the classroom, you’re able to go out on a Friday night and represent the town.”
The principles of the program remain the same, yet McKinnon differs from his predecessor in personality.
His enthusiasm on the sidelines and intense passion for the game bleed over into his players and the workhorse coach has continued to run the defense, while also assuming the play-calling responsibilities on offense.
“I don’t sleep,” McKinnon joked about his expanded role, “[As a] head coach you have to make sure that all three phases of the game are ready to go and that the game plan is implemented in all three. I give the credit to my coaching staff, which are all phenomenal. When I was first hired I made sure that all of them came back.”
The McKinnon-era kicked off with a 49-0 victory at Hartford Public on Sept 13.
It was fitting that the defensive guru’s debut was punctuated with a shutout.
“We had a really good training camp and our senior class is in the top that I’ve seen for 11 years, with the attitude, the commitment, the dedication, and that family bond that they have with each other,” stated McKinnon, who played college football at Plymouth State University and learned the coaching ropes under John Ferrazzi at Sheehan High, “Now they’re bringing it onto the field and it definitely comes out in their energy.”
Two-way star Connor Pace, who had his 2018 season cut short due to a shoulder injury, is back and better than ever.
“It felt great to get back out there because it was a long offseason, a lot of work rehabbing the shoulder. It felt really good to get back to it,” said Pace, who caught two touchdowns and returned an interception for another in the opener, “We were ready to compete. We knew we had to go in and win and boost our confidence.”
Pace picked up right where he left off thanks to his rapport with senior quarterback Matt Silver.
“Honestly I feel we’ve always had a connection. Since freshman year we’ve been playing together and everything has just clicked. The more practice we get and the more reps we get, we’re only going to get better,” said Silver, who is now the fulltime starter after gaining valuable experience under center last fall, “Mr. McKinnon just took me under his wing in the offseason and I got a lot more experience. I made it my goal to become the rock for everyone so they can just fall back on me if they need to.”
“Matt has a lot more confidence this year. He’s fearless,” McKinnon said of his signal caller, “He got thrown into the fire last year and ended up winning a lot of games late in the season, including the big victory over Windsor.”
McKinnon’s roster is loaded with plenty of weapon on the outside, as well as equipped with the tools upfront.
Senior Jake Whitaker starts in the trenches of both sides the ball. Like Pace, he also missed a majority of last season after breaking his leg four games into 2018.
“It felt when I was injured that I was away from the team because I couldn’t be on the field. So this year I wanted to make sure that just because I was out for six weeks last year I’m back and I want to be a leader on this team and make sure I’m doing whatever I can to make this the best team as possible,” said Whitaker, who plays left guard and rotates between defensive end and nose guard on defense.
Whitaker helped pave the way for a rushing attack that amassed over 250 yards on the ground against Hartford Public.
“My sophomore year, my first year playing varsity, we could not run the football and I would go into school and everyone would say ‘you guys can’t run the football’ or ‘you guys gave up this many sacks’ and it was the worst feeling in the world. So going into a game like last week and rushing for over 250 yards was the best feeling in the world.”
Manning the middle defensively is Jacob Rivera, who has a nose for the football and brings a no-nonsense approach to a unit that has 8 of 11 starters returning from 2018.
“We all know what we have to do. Our mentality is that we feel we have the best team we’ve had in a while and we want to take over and beat anyone that we play,” said Rivera.
McKinnon likes the mental makeup of his middle linebacker, “He’s a three-year starter, when he’s on the field he makes us better and we become a better defensive unit. Marcus Nieves next to him is starting to fill that role too and in the future he’ll take over that role.”
Nieves showed up big in the thrilling win over Platt, coming up with a pair of fumble recoveries late in regulation. The junior recovered a fumble by Panthers quarterback Deaven Tanner to set up the game-winning touchdown and then recovered another loose ball when Platt muffed the ensuing kickoff with 1:44 to play.
Nieves first recovery led to the game-winning touchdown, a one-yard keeper from Silver, who also scored on a 47-yard scramble in the first half.
Silver, who threw an interception on the Eagles first possession, redeemed himself on his next pass attempt when he rifled a pass to Pace, who broke a tackle and scampered 80-yards for the game’s opening score.
Down 14-0, Platt battled back to cut the deficit in half when Tanner found Antwone Santiago on a 16-yard scoring strike late in the first half and then tied things up at 14 when Roberto Salas scored on fourth down from 2 yards out with 10:32 to play in regulation.
Even after Silver’s second score and muffing the late kickoff, the road Panthers had one more chance to make a defensive stand, but Silver and Pace put the game on ice with a gutsy third down conversion.
“Coach asked me if I was ready to win the game and I said ‘yes coach’. Matt threw me a perfect ball,” recalled Pace, who suffered his season-ending injury against Platt a season ago.
Facing third and long, the Eagles could have called a run play and forced Platt to use their final timeout, but McKinnon trusted his QB-WR tandem and the two didn’t disappoint. Silver lofted a beautiful pass down the right sidelines, which Pace pulled in between two defenders to seal the game.
“I went right into the huddle and told the team we're going for it and we’re going to throw it,” McKinnon said of the play.
An unsung hero in the victory over Platt was defensive end Nick Thompson, who had three sacks and four more tackles in the backfield. The junior gave credit to his defensive brothers.
“It’s my teammates, I love them. We play hard and we had a good week of practice. We play for each other, we love each other. I just couldn’t wish for another team.”
McKinnon said Thompson has emerged since getting forced into action as a sophomore a season ago, “Anything you throw at him, he wants more of it. He was huge for us tonight. I’m very proud of him.”
Following his first victory at home, McKinnon got a bucket of ice dumped on him.
It was the first of what should be many for a coach that is football 24/7 and understands the importance of a strong support system.
“The community is great, they support everything we do. They understand the mentality of football and what it takes to be a football player and it starts with them being role models for their kids,” McKinnon said of the parents of the over 90 kids that are currently playing football for the high school, “The youth coaches do a great job and they’re using the same offense and same defense and they do a great job implementing that. Even though we are a high school program, we’re actually a town program.”
Next up is another home game against powerhouse Daniel Hand this Friday, Sept 27 at 7 p.m.
The Tigers roll into town as back-to-back state champs and are currently on a 28-game winning streak.
It’ll be a tough task but win or lose McKinnon summed up the team’s mindset during his speech to his players following the latest victory.
“When you’re family, you’re glue. You might bend but you won’t break.”
Anna Sbriglio- Cromwell (Soccer): Sbriglio scored four goals, all in the first half, in the Panther 9-0 win over Amistad last Wednesday. The junior leads the Panthers in goals through their first five games.
Amber Rocheleau- Newington (Swimming): Rocheleau broke the Middletown High School’s pool record in the 500 freestyle with a time of 5:18.33, helping the Indians defeat the Blue Dragons 95-88. The senior heads a strong group of swimmers and divers at Newington this fall.
Bella Montalvo- Rocky Hill (Soccer): Montalvo had three goals in Rocky Hill’s 7-1 victory over Middletown last Tuesday. The senior captain is coming off an all-state season last fall and had made all-conference in each of her first three seasons.
William McCarter- Wethersfield (Soccer): McCarter assisted on all three goals as Wethersfield defeated New Britain 3-2 in overtime last Friday. The sophomore’s efforts improved the Eagles to 3-0 on the young season.
Sadie Budzik- Cromwell (Volleyball): Budzik has picked up right where she left off last season, leading Cromwell to a perfect 6-0 start. The senior captain totaled 46 kills and 27 aces in wins over North Branford, Valley Regional, and Manchester last week.
The Rocky Hill Athletic Hall of Fame Committee is pleased to announce the newest inductees into the Rocky Hill Athletic Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame recognizes individuals and groups who have made a distinctive and significant contribution to athletics in Rocky Hill. The newest members of the Hall of Fame Class of 2019 are:
Scott Bengston, Basketball Excellence
Marcelo Caetano, Soccer Excellence
Justin DeNovellis, Soccer Excellence
Joe Fontana, Soccer Excellence
Meagan McLoughlin, Soccer Excellence
Nicole Palazzo, Hockey Excellence
Rocky Hill Challenger Sports Program, John J. McVicar Distinguished Service Award
These individuals and groups will be honored at the 16th Induction Ceremony to be held at the Wethersfield Country Club, 76 Country Club Road in Wethersfield on Sunday, November 17, 2019. The event will begin at 1:00 PM, with a light buffet being served. Tickets are $40.00 for adults and $10.00 for children under 10. All proceeds from this event will continue to fund scholarships at Rocky Hill High School for deserving college bound student athletes.
Details on tickets to the event or for placing a congratulatory ad in the program booklet can be obtained by contacting the Hall of Fame Committee by e-mail at HOF06067@gmail.com. You can also follow us on Facebook for the latest induction ceremony information at facebook.com/rockyhillhalloffame.
Zoe Kleeblatt, Emily Karwic, Summer Mitchell, Meaghan Murphy, Molly Bowers, and Kate Anzidei will help lead WHS field hockey this fall
Senior Zoe Kleeblatt has developed into a multiple sport, all-conference player, as well as a terrific teammate and mentor during her time at Wethersfield High School.
Kleeblatt’s steady growth has corresponded with the rise of the field hockey program, which enters the 2019 season following back-to-back tournament appearances.
“It’s my last year playing, so I have to give it my all,” said Kleeblatt, who also stars on the softball fields in the spring, “I got more experience as a junior last season and I’ve had that leadership role over the years, which has helped.”
Since 2016, head coach Colleen Budaj has used Kleeblatt in a variety of roles and credited her senior captain for being adaptable, “ We have her playing different positions and I think one of the nice things about her is we can ask her to drop back on defense if we’re up a goal or we can say we need you to fly up top. Right now, we’re training her to play three different positions base on the need on the field. She’s willing to do that, which is important”
Kleeblatt and her fellow seniors have witnessed the team’s win total increase in each of the last three seasons. From a pair of wins in 2016, to a handful in 2017, to nine last fall.
2017 and 2018 ended in the opening round of the tournament and naturally the next step is a tourney victory, and possibly more.
“We’ve talk about not just making the tournament, but also hosting a tournament game. We want to win one and advance this year,” said Budaj, who express November’s goal to the the players and parent, “[The school] host the state tournament every year and we don’t just want to cook, we want to play. That’s got to be our ultimate goal, get as close as we can to that final game.”
Budaj has an experience senior class, led by Kleeblatt.
Emily Karwic, Summer Mitchell, Meaghan Murphy, Clarissa Nock, and newcomer Isabella Samse round out the rest of a class.
The six seniors plan on making their final season the best one yet.
“We’re more excited and I think we’re better this year,” stated Karwic, “We know what we’re after so we’re looking to go further this year.”
“I’ve been playing with these girls since freshman year and we’re all really good friends, both on and off the field, so I’ve been really excited to get this season going because we really want it this year,” added Murphy.
Mitchell joked that the team might be spending too much time together, “I don’t know if I’ve ever been on a team where I’ve felt more involved, maybe we have too much chemistry.”
Karwic, Mitchell, and Murphy create a fierce triangle on the defensive end.
“I think we have a strong defensive team. It’s all the same girls I played with last season and I think we’re really proud of the team chemistry we have and what we’ve been able to accomplish,” said Murphy.
Last year the defenders where protecting the crease for goalie Anna Kallajian, who was one of two departing graduates.
Replacing Kallajian will be young a pair of young netminders, sophomore Julia Peacock and freshman Veronica McKenna.
“Julia came to us without a lot of field hockey knowledge but she was a soccer goalie so that has translated into what she is doing here. Veronica has played in goal in the feeder program, so she’s definitely got some experience as well,” said Budaj.
Budaj returns all of her starting field players from a season ago, including Lorien Touponse, who made all-conference as a sophomore.
Junior Kate Anzidei and sophomore Molly Bowers are coming off productive 2018 seasons. They both credited the current senior class for welcoming them with open arms.
“They’re always so helpful and kind. Whenever someone is struggling with the skills they will try and help them and say really nice things. We also try and pick each other up, which is one of the things that I’ve learned from them,” said Anzidei, who will be playing point this season, “It’s an adjustment but is also fun because it’s a new way for us to attack upfield.”
Bowers added that the seniors made her transition from youth field hockey to high school an easy one last fall, “They’ve all willing to give really great advice and we love coming to practice because everyone is willing to help each other out even though it’s competitive. We motivate each other every day and we’re all really competitive in a good way.”
Budaj praised Bowers for already assuming a leadership role and for her quick learning curve, “Molly is running the center of the field for us, we’ve put a lot of her shoulder. We need her to have as many touches as possible.”
The veteran coach is also excited about the team’s depth, which includes vocal leader Logan Lisella and Samse, who joins the team after making a name for herself on the cross country and basketball teams the past three seasons at WHS.
“She’s never played a stick sport before, so this is totally new to her. She has the innate aggressiveness and she understands what it takes from playing the other sports. She’s the kid that will thrown herself at the sport.”
The experience, chemistry, and depth are all in place. Now it’s time for the Eagles to take flight once the tourney roles around.
Budaj and her assistant, husband Steve Budaj, added new alignments as season ago and have even more wrinkles for the upcoming season.
“We have different attack strategies for when we’re up and when we’re down and we have to approach each game with a different strategy depending on who we are playing. Before we weren’t necessarily doing that, we were playing just to survive.”
The Budaj’s reclamation of the program is showing up on the scoreboard and in the overall play on the field.
“They’re more willing now to give the ball up ball up because they know they’re going to get it back. Before we were just hitting it without poise or without purpose but now they’re stringing more passes together. Our attack isn’t just from the right, our attack is strong from the left. We have our strongest players in a diamond across the field so we can attack from the left too.”
2019 got off to a great start, defeating Lewis Mills 4-0 last Friday behind goals from Touponse, Nock, Sydney Budaj, and Kathryn Bello. Peacock registered the shutout in first start in goal.
The game was the first of three straight on the road for the traveling Eagles, who now host the next six at Cottone Field, starting Monday, Sept 23 against E.O. Smith (3:45 pm).
“I think we have to get a couple of those road wins under our belt. If you can get some of those earlier on it takes some of the pressure off in those later games and it could help us get a home playoff game.”
Matt Pepe: Cromwell (Football): Pepe connected on a field goal in the third quarter, which ended up being the game’s only points in a 3-0 victory over 2018 Class S runner-up Haddam-Killingworth. Along with handling the kicking duties, the junior will also be a go-to wide receiver and defensive back this fall.
Matt Silver: Wethersfield (Football): Silver tossed a pair of touchdowns, both to Connor Pace, and added two more scores on the ground as Wethersfield cruised to a 49-0 victory over Hartford Public in Matt McKinnon’s debut at head coach. The senior signal caller completed 8 of 11 passes and finished with 121 rushing yard in the season opener.
Shaun Gaskins: Middletown (Football): Gaskins dominated on both sides of the ball in Middletown’s season-opening 35-7 victory over Bristol Eastern. The sophomore running back/linebacker registered 104 total yards and a rushing touchdown, along with six tackles, a sack, and an interception on defense.
Madison Massaro-Cook: Newington (Volleyball): Massaro-Cook had a terrific start to the season as Newington earned consecutive wins over Berlin and Tolland last Thursday and Friday night. The junior totaled 22 kills and 24 digs in the two wins, adding three aces in the victory over Berlin.
Maiya Martin: Rocky Hill (Volleyball): Martin had a team-high seven assists and added an ace in Rocky Hill’s season opening loss to E.O. Smith. The sophomore setter will be one of the key pieces for a Terriers team that aims for a second straight tourney appearance this fall.
Rocky Hill boys soccer will be led this fall by Nate Doll, Michael Pantano, Jake Rajotte, Michaeljon Moleiro, Jason Moleiro, Sal Lonero, and Max Cinaci
Kevin Williams took over as the boys’ soccer coach at Rocky Hill High School last fall and helped guide the team back into the state tournament.
Entering year two, Williams is optimistic that his transformation of the Terriers will continue to yield positive results.
“Last season we had a really strong summer session and they were ready to go. We were super fit, we had a super motivated senior class that wanted to make states because they had missed states the season before,” said Williams, who previously coached girls soccer at New Britain High School, “This season we came in low and we’re still building up. We’re going to have to keep working, but if the kids work like we want them to work I think we’ll be alright.”
Williams lost a large senior class to graduation, including three all-conference players in (goalie) Chris Conlan, Riley Donovan, and Alex Burke.
Filling those voids won’t be easy yet Williams’ defensive philosophy and passion for the game remains steadfast.
“I’m still preaching up-tempo and we’re still working our butts off, but we now have to rebuild mentally because when you lose that much talent it’s hard. Riley’s not walking through that door, Chris isn’t coming in, so who’s going to step up?”
Returning captain Jake Rajotte has accepted the leadership challenge.
“We lost that big senior class, so we have a lot of kids coming up from JV. There’s a lot of chemistry that we still need to build,” said the senior defensive-mid, “We had a lot of chemistry last year so we’re trying to go into this season with that same mentality.”
Senior striker Sal Lonero is also ready to take on a mentorship role, “We’re working hard in practice and we’re going to keep trying to build the team chemistry and just play right and listen to what our coach says and stay focused. I’m trying to lead the younger kids the best that I can so they can play to the best of their abilities.”
Both Rajotte and Lonero have enjoyed the coaching style and culture change that Williams installed last fall. There’s an added emphasis on intensity and conditioning in practice.
“We love the hard work. We run a lot more and our fitness these past two years has been incredible compared to other years. I think it’s been a major step up,” said Rajotte.
“We’re definitely more together under coach Williams. We’re doing stuff out of school, bonding stuff, and it’s just been a better experience as a team,” added Lonero.
A year ago Williams put his stamp on the program and this year he organized a preseason Jamboree, which was held last Saturday at Rocky Hill High School. The school welcomed CREC, Manchester, Platt, Bloomfield, Windsor, Northwest Catholic, and New Britain for a round of scrimmages.
The jamboree not only prepared the team for the regular season and raised money for the booster club, but it also gave the young soccer players around town as chance to see what high school soccer is all about.
“We invited all the kids from the Rocky Hill soccer club to come out and watch the games. I thought it was important for me as a new coach that I’m not only thinking about right now but I’m also thinking of down the road. We want to build a program and we want more kids in the youth programs. If you don’t have a strong youth program you can’t have a successful high school program,” said Williams, who is also the founder of Williams Soccer Academy in Windsor, which helps elementary-aged kids develop and build their soccer skills.
Hosting the jamboree and a road scrimmage against Berlin were the appetizer for the regular season, which starts this Friday.
Friday’s opener will mark the beginning of the 20th season since the Terriers last won a state championship, a 2-1 victory over Avon in the 1999 Class M state title.
It’s been a long drought for a program that dominated for nearly two decades, making 11 title appearances and wining five state championships between 1964-1981. The incredible run included back-to-back titles in ‘74-’75 and ’79-’80.
Williams has the pedigree and passion to restore the championship roar in Rocky Hill.
“As a coach every game that we go into I want my team to except to win. That’s my attitude here, we’ll be successful if we put out best team on the field and we think we can win every game and we train to win every game and never take games off.”
“If I’m doing my job the kids are pushing themselves and they are fit and ready to go. That’s my dream as a coach, that’s my attitude with the little ones I coach and that’s my attitude here as well.”
The second-year coach will lean heavily on Rajotte, Lonero, Nate Doll, Michael Pantano, Michaeljon Moleiro, Jason Moleiro, and Max Cianci. All seven saw extensive action a season ago.
“We don’t have a lot of big guys. Last year when a ball went into the box everyone knew Riley was going to win it. This year we have to figure it out, but Nate has taken that responsibility so far. He was our most improved player last year and I love his energy and his attitude.”
One of the toughest tasks will be replacing Conlan in goal. Junior Murad Kup and senior Brandon Onyejekwe are in line to protect the net this fall.
Regardless of who is on the field, the same principles will apply.
Defense and more defense.
“I pride myself on our defense. You’ve got to learn how to defend, because if you’re not willing to defend this game isn’t really for you,” said Williams, who grew up playing on the defensive end, “We defend, see what they’re about, and then we attack. It’s like chess.”
The team’s first chess match is Friday the 13th under the lights at Rocky Hill High School against a strong, and potentially scary, East Hartford team. Action starts at 6 p.m.
2019 Wethersfield High School graduate Emily McKenna has started her freshman year as a student-athlete at Adelphi University in Garden City New York.
McKenna was a four-year varsity letter receipient with the WHS golf team, earning all-conference status all four seasons and receiving all-state accolades as a junior and senior. This past spring she helped lead the Eagles to an undefeated regular season (16-0) and repeat as CCC champs, shooting a course-low in the conference finals.
In addition to golf, McKenna was a member of the volleyball team for four years, serving as a captain.
She also excelled in the classroom as a member of the National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, English Honor Society, Social Studies Honor Society, and Art Honor Society, as well as, taking AP chemistry, AP art, and ECE Spanish.
Outside of WHS, McKenna qualified for the CT PGA Tournament of Champions, and also placed second in the Connecticut Women's Golf Association Junior Championship.
McKenna also volunteered her time with the Rocky Hill Congregational Church through their Epworth Project in building homes in New Orleans. She was also a key organizer of the suicide prevention walk here in Wethersfield.
McKenna is currently pursing a major in Graphic Design at Adelphi as she prepares for her freshman season on the links this spring.
*Information provided by Wethersfield AD Mike Maltese and the WHS Athletic Department*
Isaac and William Lukens of Wethersfield joined the New England Revolution at the first ever public soccer clinic in Hartford, hosted by Santander on August 15, 2019
Wethersfield residents Isaac and Williams Lukens, joined other young soccer hopefuls around Central Connecticut, participating in a public soccer clinic featuring stars from New England Revolution.
The event, hosted by Santander Bank, took place at Trinity College in Hartford on August 15 and gave soccer fans and their families an exciting opportunity to play alongside their favorite Revolution players.
The free clinic featured Revolution midfielders Scott Caldwell, Nicolas Firmino, DeJuan Jones, and goalkeepers Cody Cropper and Brad Knighton, along with Revolution Academy coaches leading skills clinics with drills, demonstrations and instructions for the youth (ages 5 through 12) and their families.
Along with meeting their favorite Revolution stars, fans enjoyed photo and autograph opportunities, games, and more.
This marked the first time that the Santander Bank, the official bank of the Revolution, expanded the event to include multiple cities. Hartford’s event was the third such public clinic this season featuring the Revolution. The other clinics took place in Boston, MA and Providence, RI.
The Revolution, who play their home games at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, are in the homestretch of their 24th professional season and currently have an overall record of 10-9-9 with six games to play in the regular season.
Two of those remaining games are at home and the upcoming game, this Saturday, Sept 7, against New York City Football Club will be played at the hollowed grounds inside Yankee Stadium.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin